Health, disease and euthanasia

When you care for wildlife there’s a risk that caring for them may spread disease.

Disease can affect human health, domestic animal health and biodiversity.

Some diseases have had devastating impacts on entire species (such as chytrid in frogs), and others have been fatal to humans, such as lyssavirus, which is transferred from bats.

You can reduce the potential for animals to contract parasites or disease by doing all of the following:

  • keep a high standard of hygiene
  • clean enclosures and equipment regularly with proper cleaning and sterilising agents
  • keep a low-stress environment
  • isolate/quarantine new animals in a separate area until their health is determined
  • quarantine sick animals throughout their rehabilitation
  • care for as few animals as possible
  • keep animals of different species separate
  • do not combine animals that come from different areas
  • keep wildlife quarantined from pets and domestic animals, particularly related species - such as wild and pet parrots.

Only care for island species on their island of origin, not on the mainland as these species are vulnerable to disease. If they’re transferred to the mainland, they must not be returned to the island of origin.

Diseases can be transmitted between humans and animals - these are called zoonoses.

How to reduce spread of disease

All of the following will reduce the chance of disease:

  • wear gloves
  • use proper handling techniques
  • make sure you’re up to date with vaccinations (especially tetanus)
  • carers that handle bats should have pre-exposure rabies vaccination for lyssavirus.

If you become pregnant, talk to your doctor about how to care for wildlife safely during pregnancy.

Diseases which can be transferred to humans

Some of the diseases that can be transferred to humans include all of the following:

  • reptiles - salmonella, mycobacterium and cryptosporidium
  • birds - salmonella, psittacosis (Chlamydiophila psittaci) and mycobacterium
  • mammals - salmonella, ringworm, sarcoptic mange, Q fever, toxoplasmosis
  • bats - lyssavirus, menangle.

Handling raw meat, including post mortems of native mammals, is considered a route of transmission.

Wildlife carers are an important source of wildlife health information and knowledge, and contribute to increased awareness and monitoring diseases.

If you see any signs of disease that are unusual or clusters of wildlife deaths, contact your vet, Parks and Wildlife or Wildlife Health Australia.

For any animal health-related concerns, contact your vet. For any human health-related concerns, contact your doctor.

The decision to euthanise and the euthanasia itself should be done by a vet.

Last updated: 07 March 2019

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